Students return to CRHS

Students and staff return to Coal Ridge High School after two-week quarantine
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Thursday, September 17, the hallways at Coal Ridge High School were a little more joyful, a little louder and a little fuller than the day before. Just over 100 students and ten teachers returned to school after a 14-day COVID-19 exposure quarantine.

“It felt very nice to go back to school and see people in person and have my teachers be able to provide lessons where I can ask questions and they can respond in real-time with an answer,” said Coal Ridge Junior Brandon Smith.

The Garfield Re-2 School District was notified on Sunday, September 6 that a Coal Ridge High School student tested positive for COVID-19. The notification set off a chain of events that culminated in the quarantining of students and staff. Overall, said Davis, the safety measures that the District and CRHS have put into place and the response went remarkably well.

“Before we actually had a case, I was apprehensive about what impacts Coal Ridge would have to absorb. I certainly won’t say that those two weeks were without hiccups, but the school days felt much better than I had anticipated,” said CRHS Principal Dr. Jackie Davis. “We are very glad to have our students back for in-person learning, and all of our staff together in our school.” 

Coal Ridge High School teachers made the shift immediately to online classes beginning on Tuesday, September 8. This was a practically seamless transition because the Coal Ridge teachers provide instruction for in-person students while simultaneously providing lessons for distance learning students. Coal Ridge Spanish teacher Camilla Bates explained that instruction during quarantine looked significantly different from the instruction given during the fourth quarter last year. 

“For my classes, I had a live instruction check-in with my students and then an independent activity.  I would start them off with instruction, but I would meet with all of them first, and I was available to them and they could do a progress check,” said Bates. 

“This felt better (than last spring) because the kids knew that they had to be a part of it. We had good participation. I was able to provide live instruction, check-ins with the asynchronous (allowing students to complete it when they needed to) component. The live component was very important.”

Because few high school students take the same course schedules, cohorting is difficult, however this year, both Coal Ridge and Rifle High Schools transitioned from a seven-period day to a 4-by-4, two-day block schedule. This was one of the measures that Dr. Davis believes kept the number of students and staff impacted to a minimum.  

“We spent hours working with Rifle High and the Re-2 administration to develop a system that would minimize the impact of a positive case in our school. It wasn’t perfect, but we were able to keep the majority of our school in-person and learning,” she added.

Course scheduling in conjunction with physically distancing to the greatest extent possible and required face coverings not only minimized the number of impacted students and staff, they likely contributed to the reports of no symptomatic students or staff among the quarantined, added Carrie Godes, Public Information Officer for Garfield County Public Health.

The thing that both students and staff missed the most was the human connection.

“The thing I missed the most was the ability to talk to my friends and see what is happening in their lives, and how they were feeling about current situations,” said Brandon. “When I came back, school continued as normal because I was prepared. Lessons continued and I really didn’t miss a beat.”

Camilla agreed. 

“The thing I missed the most was the student connection. I also missed the camaraderie I have with my colleagues. I missed being able to talk to my peers in the halls between classes. All I can say is it feels so good to be back in the building.”

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